U Gotta Feel Me
ursting onto the national arena out of the fertile Houston scene in 2002 with Undaground Legend Lil’ Flip’s main draw lay in his Pre-Raphaelite attention to detail—“The Way We Ball” being a inward-looking tribute to his lifestyle that left no object unexamined. In this, his third solo LP, Flip takes the idea of pushing the details of his life—both ugly and beautiful—to an extreme, presenting nearly an hour and a half of his experiences to the audience. As with the greatest of the Pre-Raphaelites, however, the manic minute nature of this type of lyricism takes its toll over the length of the two discs. But this, in its essence, is its greatest triumph: by stretching the material over two discs, Flip puts the listener in a position of listening to only one disc per sitting, deflecting the idea that the proceedings drag on too long. Flip doesn’t expect the audience to play them back to back—instead, what we get here is two albums that clock in at reasonable times and act as hip-hop records sans filler—a rarity in recent times.
“Game Over” is the easy point of reference to begin to unpack the first disc of U Gotta Feel Me—utilizing the Atari sounds, presumably of Flip’s youth, for its backing. “Now who they want? / Game Over” goes the chorus, reflecting Flip’s indifference to both haters and fans. He’ll be doing the same thing that he’s always been doing regardless of either and, when he decides to begin, the game will, effectively, be over and have to be restarted. “I Came to Bring the Pain” reflects these same sentiments over a throbbing orchestral sample, issuing warnings and promises to a variety of people. This and “Game Over” effectively serve as the warning or call-out tracks to those who would pretend to the throne of Flip. In these, graphic descriptions of what might befall anyone who would cross Flip and the Screwed Up Clik are used to both humorous and horrific effect. “The Ghetto”, “Sun Don’t Shine” and “Rags 2 Riches” serve as positioning tools, using Flip’s history as subject matter to gain sympathy for the narrator, weaving personal tales with varying degrees of successful production (“Sun Don’t Shine” being a particular nadir). Other bangers? “Check (Let’s Ride)” and “Dem Boyz” come in near the end of the disc to quell any thoughts of a mid-album/late-album slump utilizing fascinating backing tracks to tell their individual stories.
The second disc is equally strong, with Flip detailing more warnings and promises in the early going, along with the location-specific “Thow Ya Hood Up”, which will no doubt endear Flip to the Houston crowd. From here, Flip includes two screwed songs—“Drugz” and the aforementioned “Dem Boyz”. “Drugz” features a slowed down punctuating guitar which must’ve been up to metal grinding speed in the original, while “Dem Boyz” unfurls the Eastern tinges into something completely unfamiliar. Flip ends the second disc on a high note: “Ain’t No Nigga” featuring David Banner, which shows itself to be a distant cousin of Banner’s own “Fuck ‘Em” what with the sparse marching band providing musical accompaniment.
In the end, Flip’s insistence on stretching this release over two discs is a successful one. Not taken in one large bite, his repeated themes and sometimes one-note flow would reach even more tiresome proportions than they do. And with the detailed, to a fault, three subjects talked about, time after time, Flip is slowly revealing himself to be a one-note lyricist as well. With little to go on lyrically, in opposition to the often fascinating schizophrenia of frequent collaborator Banner or goofy wordplay of Ludacris, Flip reveals his attention to detail to be a liability—missing the overall bigger picture. Despite this, Flip has turned in the strongest effort of his career and will be one to watch in the future.